AV Receiver Wars: Denon AVR-X3600 Vs. Marantz Cinema 50


I don’t know about you, but choosing a new AV receiver can be a frustrating experience. First, you have a lot of choices out there, which is never a bad thing. But then you have to compare features, prices, your needs, and any number of criteria that you may have. And to add, each brand has several options, making the choice harder! Well, what if you let us do all the hard work? Today, we move to mid-tier receivers and pit two of the most popular AV receivers, the Denon AVR-X3800H and the Marantz Cinema 50, against one another. Who will win in this round of AV Receiver Wars? Throw on your boxing gloves, and let’s get the Denon AVR-X3800 ($1699) and the Marantz Cinema 50 ($2500) into the Receiver Wars ring!

The Criteria

In this round of Receiver Wars, we are pitting the two mid-tier AV receivers from Denon and Marantz (the AVR-X3800 and Marantz Cinema 50) against each other. When price IS an object, you need to know where your hard-earned money is going. As always, I’ll utilize one of Rob H’s (AV Rant podcast co-host) favorite tools, the ZKelectronics AV receiver comparison tool. It’s a quick and easy way to compare AV receivers at a glance. I highly recommend you use it for your comparisons.

Let’s also get this out there. The same parent company, Sound United, owns Marantz and Denon. The parts inside the two are mostly identical, with Marantz claiming that many of their parts are “hand-picked.” Plus, amongst audiophiles, there is some notion that the Marantz is more “musical” (spoiler alert – it’s not) because it has different amps or DACs or something. For this reason, Marantz is considered the luxury brand of the two.

Round 1 – Base Specs

These AV receivers feature 9.4 channels (11.2 channel processing) allowing you to add Atmos/DTS:X/Auro 3D in a 7.4.4 configuration with external amplification. They are also HDMI 2.1 compliant (6 inputs with full bandwidth), enabling you to use your next-gen console. Honestly, these two AV receivers are so close that choosing a winner in this round will be a challenge. Let’s compare them!

Denon AVR-X3800H Marantz Cinema 50
9.4 channels 9.4 channels
11.4 channel processing 11.4 channel processing
105 W (8 Ω, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 2 channel driven) 110 W (8 Ω, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 2 channel driven)
HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1
Dolby Atmos, DTS:X , Auro 3D capable Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Auro 3D capable
HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, 8K Upscaling, 8K Passthrough HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, 8K Upscaling, 8K Passthrough
AirPlay 2, DLNA, HEOS AirPlay 2, DLNA, HEOS
Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
USB and Phono inputs USB and Phono inputs

Result – Draw

These two AV receivers are a draw. The 5 Watts per Channel difference is insignificant, so they are spec-wise identical on paper. These two receivers are built on the same platform, so it isn’t surprising that they have many of the same specs.

Round 2 – Price

Pricing is often THE major consideration when choosing an AV receiver. But once you start hitting on mid-tier, pricing is not always the main concern. However, most people don’t want to throw money away, so you better have some serious differences to justify the higher price tag.

The Denon AVR-X3800H is $1699 and the Marantz Cinema 50 is $2500.

Result – Winner – AVR-X3800H

Both base specs are so close (again, 5W is inconsequential) that the Denon AVR-X3800H is the clear winner. Aside from looks (and possibly a different DAC), there is nothing that I could point out that justifies an $800 difference.

Round 3 – Features

Price is important, but features are where it is at! Most people don’t mind paying a little more if they get enough value for their money. Let’s see how these two stack up against each other!

Feature Denon AVR-X3800H Marantz Cinema 50 Winner
Bi-amp capability Yes Yes Draw*
Room Correction Audyssey MultEQ XT 32 Sub EQ / Dirac Live/Dirac Bass Audyssey MultEQ XT 32 Sub EQ/ Dirac Live/Dirac Bass Draw
Zone 2 Pre-Outs Yes Yes Draw*
Analog Pre-Outs Yes Yes Draw*
Control 4/IR Outputs Yes Yes Draw*
Silver Finish Available No Yes Marantz Cinema 50**
* Winner, but most people won’t use this feature. **Who cares? I mean, other than me?

Result – Winner – Draw

I hate to continue to beat on this deceased horse, but there is no objective difference between the Denon AVR-X3800H and the Marantz Cinema 50. Yes, if I am being honest, the Marantz looks higher quality with its textured front panel and porthole design. But looks are subjective. While I may enjoy that look, someone else might hate it. And for some AV folks, they stick their gear in cabinets or closets, never to look at them.

AV Receiver Wars: Denon AVR-X3600 Vs. Marantz Cinema 50

So you need to ask yourself, is an $800 difference for no performance gain, worth it to you? If you want a retro throw-back system and absolutely MUST have a silver finish, then maybe $800 is worth it to you. But for me, and most people, $800 is a whole lotta extra stuff I can add to my room, like DIY room treatments.

AV Receiver Wars: Denon AVR-X3600 Vs. Marantz Cinema 50
Wow…silver…take my $800!

The single most prominent feature that I could start to justify an $800 difference, room correction, is moot. Both of these AV receivers are loaded with the best correction software that money can buy. Both have the highest level of Audyssey, and both can be upgraded to Dirac Live, for a price. If, of the pair, only the Marantz had the Dirac Live option, I might have given it the win. But since both are identical, save for looks, it’s still a draw.

And the Winner Is – Denon AVR-X3800H

In Receiver Wars: Denon AVR-X3800H vs Marantz Cinema 50, the AVR-X3800H pulls off the win. In this case, where both are nearly identical, aside from looks and audiophile desirability, the X3800H wins based on a significant pricing difference. Even when looking at slight differences like the Marantz having gold-plated RCA corrections, I can’t ever justify $800 for difference that can’t be objectively measured. So in this installment of AV Receiver Wars: Denon AVR-X3600 Vs. Marantz Cinema 50, Denon wins!

Why Might You Buy the Marantz Cinema 50?

If price isn’t a major concern, and you like the looks of the Marantz more (or want silver) than the Denon, then $800 might be worth it to you. For some folks, the audiophile cred that you get on on-line forums when you say that you have a Marantz might be worth the $800! After all, I am the person who “upgraded” to a Pro-Ject Carbon EVO turntable because I liked the way it looked!

What do you think? Did I get it right? Let us know in the comments below and let us know what AV receivers you want us to put head to head.





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